6.24.13

Alone We Traveled on, With Nothing but a Shadow

Monday June 24, 2013

6.24.13

There was finally a window in the weather that we thought we could make our escape to Guatemala. Boy, did we wrongly predict what the weather was going to be doing in this part of the globe at this time of year. For a little while there, we thought we might be stuck in Utila for hurricane season, while waiting for winds to die down to anything under 30 knots. Yes, that’s all we’ve been getting since we’ve been here. 30 knot winds with thunderstorms on and off. After going to town each day though to check passage weather, we found at least 36 hours to make the 110 mile journey from Utila to Livingston Guatemala.

Oh, by the way, yesterday was Matt’s birthday. He doesn’t care to celebrate them, so I did what I do best, and I hijacked it. We had gone into customs in the morning to check out, so, afterward, we went out for breakfast, since, I wanted to. Then we tired snorkeling, since, I wanted to get in the water at least once while we were there, but we couldn’t find any good places to tie the dinghy where depths weren’t over 80 ft (things drop off fast here), so I never did get in the water after all. I made dinner on the boat, but after the sun had gone down and under the light of this year’s ‘Super moon’, we went into town for strawberry daiquiris. Hate to throw Matt under the bus, but that last one was at his request. However…from what we’d been seeing earlier in the week, the glasses were as big as fishbowls, and who wouldn’t want to drown in one of them on their birthday? (I can now tell you though, they were all mix and no rum.)

daqs at Bucaneers

Utila, Bay Islands

Anyway, back to cruising. There was a little bit of excitement this morning as we weighed anchor, mostly in the ‘This is the last sail we’ll have to take for the next five months’ kind of way. The sun was out, and with only the head sail up, we shot out of Utila on a beam reach, averaging 6.5 knots. Once we were sure that we were south enough of the reefs, course was changed to northwest, and we still sped along, still holding 5.5-6 knots of speed. Being close enough to the mainland now, we still never made out the mountains on shore behind the low lying, hazy clouds, but we did pick up the only English radio station in rage for miles. Chomping on Club crackers, we somewhat enjoyed the ride as we bobbed our head to the 90’s mix playing through the speakers. Tacking back and forth to make our way a bit north again, we finally settled into a nice downwind run in the early afternoon. The waves were growing, but steady, and it was nice to have them pushing us along from behind now instead of rocking us back and forth on our side. Being slightly dirty as it was, and knowing that we wouldn’t get to Livingston until the next morning, and then having to spend the rest of the afternoon fighting the current to get the 20 miles up river necessary, I pulled out all my gear to take my last cockpit shower for months. The waves (approx 6-8 ft) were actually large enough at this point that I had to keep one arm holding on to the bimini rails to keep myself from sliding from end to end, unlike my shampoo and body wash which sloshed around the floor of the cockpit.

waves in Caribbean Sea

As late afternoon turned to early evening, we took a check on distance and speed, and realized we were running to fast, and at this rate would arrive in the dark. Having been keeping a steady 7-7.5 knots the past few hours still under head sail alone, we rolled it in a bit. 6.5-7 knots now, still too fast. We rolled it in and rolled it in until the point that it was almost useless to keep up, yet we were still running at over 6 knots. We were almost tempted to roll the whole thing in, turning on the engine and keeping it just barely in forward, only enough to give us steerage. We decided against that, unless it came to it in the middle of the night, and continued on with barely any sail up, still barreling forward.

head sail alone

6.5 knots under only this much sail.  What the…?!

 

Just after we settled back into our rhythm, a pod of dolphins came by to entertain us. At first I could see their fins slicing through the water on our side, and I was hoping for a good cockpit show, but they made it apparent they were only interested in jumping in our bow wake, forcing us both forward on the deck. Carefully making our way up, we held on to the standing rigging as we watched them put on a show for the next 20 minutes, swimming away from the boat, only to quickly turn around and come charging back. There were plenty that were also showing off, jumping out of the water in our wake. This is the first time we’ve actually seen this happen, they’ve always been soley underwater before, so it was a big treat to see them doing their jumps. I have to admit, seeing these dolphins ride along with us for awhile, kind of made me appreciate cruising again.  Just enough.  So, thanks guys! I wish I could have brought my camera forward with me to capture it, but I barley trusted myself to be up there, holding tight as we pitched back and forth, so an expensive piece of equipment in my hands with me would not have been a good idea.

Our dinner was a very gourmet meal of heated Progresso soup and some leftover breadsticks I had attempted to make back in Utila. After that was cleared away, we did what we do best on passage. Nothing. Nothing but stare out at the horizon and count down the hours until sleep. In addition to that, though, I’m constantly checking the chart plotter, as usual. Which began the phenomenon of one of the things I hate the most. Every so often, for no apparent reason, our depth will go from showing unreadable (anything over 600 ft) to suddenly showing 16 ft, or 12. Panicked, I’ll look over the side of the boat to see if I can see bottom, if we’ve suddenly popped over a random reef somehow, but it will look the same as it did moments before. The screen will go back to showing and unreadable depth, and my heart rate will begin to slow again. Until….it does it again, and again, and again. Matt keeps telling me it’s nothing to worry about, that obviously we’re still in thousands of feet of water, and in the back of my mind I know that’s true, but every time a small digit pops up on the screen, my heart will start beating double time and I have a mini panic attack until it reads normally again.

shallow depths

 You liar!  Why do you lie to me?!

Georgie on Passage

The night shift couldn’t come soon enough, and even though I was exhausted, I had the normal fitful sleep for my first three hours. Back in the cockpit for my 12-3 watch, we were starting to funnel in to the narrow bay between Honduras and Guatemala, with the Honduran shore a few miles off to one side, and shallow reefs to another. I made sure to stay at least a couple of miles away from the shipping lane, and watched as one after another passed by. During one of my 360 degree scans, I saw what appeared to be a red non-moving light off to my starboard side. It was still a ways off and I assumed it was a buoy marking reefs. In 15 minutes, I’d do my check again and see if I’d passed it yet. Yet, at minute 12, I spotted out of the corner of my eye a green light, attached to a mast, whizzing by me at only a few hundred feet away. Turns out that ‘buoy’ was actually another sailboat, and their mast light is one that changes from red, to green, to white, depending on what angle you’re viewing them from. When I first saw them, we had been on the same course, both heading west, although even then I didn’t know they were another boat. Right after I had initially seen them, they must had turned a 180 and set a course directly for me. When my heart once more that day settled back to a normal rate, I had to wonder if they had anyone on watch themselves. Normally, when you see another boat on the water, you don’t head right at it. Have I mentioned that it will be nice to take a few months off from sailing?

building waves

I don’t know if you can tell the size of the waves here, but they were higher than our solar panels.

 

 

utila 1

Bienvenido a Utila

Saturday June 15, 2013

utila 1

After I was able to just keep my eyes open long enough for the end of my shift at midnight, it was time to wake Nate up for his 12-3 watch. The first morning had been pretty difficult waking him up from his sleep, basically having to kick him in the head, but yesterday had been much easier. I made sure to make just enough noise as I was coming down, getting out of my harness and using the bathroom, that it might help rouse him out of his sleep a little. Bending over him I shook his arm while loudly whispering, “Nate, wake up!”. Nothing. I tried again and again with the same result. Ok, maybe a hard shoulder shake would do it. Three attempts at that and he was still out cold. I stood there for a second, laughing to myself, wondering how hard I should try before giving up. There wasn’t much I could do about loud noises since Matt was soundly slumbering two feet away and I didn’t want to take the chance that I’d wake him as well. I shook his shoulder a few more times, and even tickled him with a feather pen we had on the nav station, although I’m sure all that did was make his dreams a little more interesting for the next few minutes. (Just know that I was very sleep deprived and found it incredibly funny at the moment.) Running out of options now, I grabbed the end of his pillow and swiftly yanked it out from under his head. His eyes fluttered open and I just laughed, telling him that he was the hardest person to ever wake up, before throwing the pillow back in his face. Making sure he tethered in, I gave him a run down of his shift now that we were getting closer to land and then made my way down to my bunk where I was able to comfortably pass out for the next six hours.

I knew that if the speeds we predicted held up as planned we should just be pulling up to the harbor at the end of Matt’s 3-6 shift and I could just throw on the engine to bring us in the last couple of miles as my shift began. It worked out so well that even though he was only going on 4 hours of sleep, he decided to keep pushing on when his shift ended and only woke me up when we were about a mile outside of the harbor so that I could bring him the quarantine flag to put up. Reading the chart plotter very carefully, we positioned ourselves to ride between the markers and the narrow channel with coral flanking each side. A couple of other boats were anchored in the harbor and we took a spot pretty far back, knowing that robbery of yachts was an issue in this area, and thinking the further we were from land, the safer we would be. As soon as the hook was dropped we went through the normal routine of putting the boat back in order and dropping the dinghy down from the deck. I could tell that Nate was getting antsy to get on land as soon as possible, so I packed up all our paperwork as well as the handheld VHF, and drove myself to shore to begin the check in process which would then let the guys on shore as well.

Having no idea where to park my dinghy since nothing in the area was clearly marked, I accidentally went to someone’s private home and trampsed through their yard before finding out I was locked in from the road and needed to find an alternative route. Bringing the dinghy to the fuel dock, I locked it up and began wandering the streets in search of customs and immigration. From what I could tell, Utila looked to be one popular main road that housed three things. Restaurants, hostels, and dive shops. Walking from one end of the road to the other I could not find customs or immigration, and finally broke down and asked the heavily armed guy outside of the bank. He pointed down a little side road to the ferry dock, but also mentioned that it would not be open until Monday. Hmmm, here it was, first thing Saturday morning, and I was being told that I wouldn’t be able to check in for another 48 hours. Which legally meant, that no one besides me was allowed off the boat for the next 48 hours. This was not going to make the guys very happy. Making sure to find this out for myself I went to the offices anyway, which as correctly described, were locked shut. It was before 9 am though, so I just pulled out my Nook and holed up on a porch until business hours started. But no one came. Pulling the VHF out of my bad, I hailed Matt to let him know what I’d been told. He suggested I ask every person on the street what they knew about the offices, so I did. I asked the grocery store clerk, the dive shop clerk, and yet another bank guard. All with the same answer. The offices are not going to be open until Monday. Yet…none of these people could wrap their head around the fact that I was a cruiser that came here on my own boat, and I needed to check that boat, along with myself and my crew members, into the country. To them, I was just another backpacker that flew into the mainland and took a ferry here so I could dive the reefs.

Getting back to Serendipity, I relayed all this information to Matt and Nate. Although we’re not normally the kind of people who do this, and I’m in no way recommending it, we decided to say ‘screw it’, and pretend to be those backpackers that everyone thought we already were, until I could legally check all of us in a few days later. Technically, Nate was a backpacker anyway, he just got there by alternative methods. Loading the guys into the dinghy, we all went to shore to get Nate checked in to his hostel and find some food and internet. It’s nice to know that there’s someone else around as desperate to find it as I am. Parking the dingy once more at the fuel dock, Nate didn’t even get two steps on solid ground again before he was on his knees kissing it. No, really. We asked him what he thought of his three and a half days at sea, and he responded that, although he’s glad he did it once, and given the chance to go back in time he’d still make the same decision, but there was no way he’d ever choose this mode of transportation again. We don’t blame him. Half the time we’re asking ourselves why anyone would want to travel this way.  For an interview about our passage that Nate’s wife, Jenn, gave him on their blog, click here.

After finding Nate’s hostel and dropping his bags off, we set off in search of food, although I had already spotted a few places on my many loops of this road, and already knew which ones offered wifi. First stopping at the bank to withdraw some local currency, we settled on a little place called Munchies and slumped our tired bodies into the plastic seats. Nate and I were logged in with our computers and on Facebook like we hadn’t seen internet in years. Our food was eaten in record time, although my egg sandwich was not quite what I was expecting. It was just scrambled eggs on top of a piece of bread that looked like it was just pulled out of the bag, and placed between the two was a room temperature slice of cheese that looked like it had just been pulled out of it’s wrapper seconds before it went on my sandwich. But it was food, and I didn’t have to make it, so I was still happy. Out on the porch, we bid adieu to Nate, making plans to at least meet up again on Monday morning so I could get his passport back to check him in, and then Matt and I were back at the boat to sleep for hours and hours and hours. For the rest of the afternoon we actually did all the same things we had been doing on passage to keep busy, reading books, watching movies, or napping, but somehow, all of these things seem 100% more enjoyable if you’re flat calm while doing them.

 utila 2

See, he couldn’t wait to get off.

utila 3

 

utila 2

Nate’s dive hostel.

Munchies Restaurant Utila

breakfast 2

passage to Utila

You’ll Find us Chasing the Sun

Friday June 14, 2013

passage to Utila

Our first night on passage, we went easy on Nate and let him sleep through the night without the interruption of shifts since he had just set foot on a sailboat for the first time only five hours beforehand, and we weren’t about to leave him alone at the wheel in the dark.  Or autopilot, whatever.  I was on my morning watch when he finally woke up around 8 and joined me in the cockpit.  Asking him how he slept, he replied that it felt like he was constantly up, the only way he was even able to tell that he’d gotten any sleep was that every time he’d look over at mine & Matt’s bunk, a new one of us would be asleep there.  He may have laughed the previous night when he’d asked what one does on passage, and I replied with “Sleep, or count down the hours until you can sleep again”, but before he could even spend 30 minutes awake with me, he was promptly passed out in the cockpit, napping for the next two hours.  Matt was finally beginning to stir around this time as well, and now that it was daylight hours, agreed that we could raise the main.  We hadn’t done it the previous night since our course was putting us almost directly downwind and we’d need to go wing’n’wing, using the spinnaker pole to secure the headsail to one side.  Nate, trying to be a helpful crew member, kept asking what he could do to help, but it was really only a two person job anyway.  Although I think he thoroughly served his purpose just by being on the boat, and when I let the main out a little to quickly and almost knocked Matt off the boat with the boom, was saved a severe screaming since Matt didn’t want to cause a scene in front of an almost stranger.  There was still a look of death, but it’s much easier to ignore by just looking the other way.

Georgie in companionway

Georgie is just having so much fun.

 

The rest of day one was divided up between the three of us by reading books and taking naps.  With a scopoalmine patch on, my stomach was actually settled enough for me to pick up a book for once, so I decided to start ‘Maiden Voyage’, which has been sitting on our bookshelf for over a year.  I was two or three chapters in when I went to make lunch for us all (out of one of my worst loaves of bread ever), and came back up to find that Matt had stolen the book from me.  I was actually quite alright with this since it meant the Nook was open for the taking, and brought up ‘A Brief History of Nearly Everything’ to keep me occupied for the rest of the trip.  I don’t know if it was the added bonus of finally being able to read on passage again, or the novelty of having another person aboard, even if we were all doing our own thing, but before I knew it the sun was dipping down in the sky and it was time for dinner and sundowners.  Passing everyone a cold Red Stripe, we enjoyed the spaghetti I had prepared the previous day, and even though I think Matt’s eating habits are on par with mine, Nate made sure to mention how he’d never seen such orange spaghetti before in his life.  Ok, so maybe the grease of the ground beef mixed a little oddly with the Ragu, but it was still edible…right?  And probably much better than the only other option…Cup-o-Noodles.

Nate asleep on settee

 The lee cloth is doing it’s job of keeping Nate in his bunk……mostly.

 

Thursday brought even more excitement…in the form of movies.  I don’t know why the two of us never thought of it before, but when I started moving around the cabin without actually getting sick I thought ‘Hey!  I probably have enough energy to actually hook in all the necessary components to get the tv working, and then I can plop down on the settee for two hours of entertainment.  As strange as it sounds, I think I’d never actually done it before because I felt bad for leaving Matt up in the cockpit alone on watch while enjoyed the movie, but he was so engrossed in his book that he didn’t mind.   For the next two days we kept the movies rolling and introduced Nate to such cinema classics as The Proposal, The Adjustment Bureau, and Hot Tub Time Machine.  I think he was very impressed with the two TB of movies and tv shows that our hard drive houses.  After the first movie played, everyone would join in on viewing, with the scheduled ‘watch’ person poking their head out of the companionway every 10-15 minutes to conclude that we were still surrounded by water and nothing else.  Popcorn was popped, very poorly, and it was a nice distraction from the fact that we were actually traveling.

Friday afternoon we were all getting antsy though and ready to make landfall.  For awhile we had hoped that we’d be to Utila by Friday night since there was a period our speeds were shooting up, but then we realized we were going to fall short and get there in the middle of the night, meaning we had to slow ourselves down enough so that we wouldn’t arrive before daylight.  I tell you, nothing slashes spirits more than the hope of getting somewhere early and then finding out it’s not going to happen.  Later in the evening though, we were treated to some building seas and winds blowing over 30.  The sky held promises of storms that we prepared for by strapping on life vest and gathering in the cockpit, but each time we saw a wall of water coming our way, it would divert at the last minute and we were in the clear.  The skies finally started to clear around sunset and we prepared ourselves for bed, trying to sleep away the last agonizingly long hours of the passage.

Nate & Georgie

 Nate, playing with Georgie while waiting for our non-storm.

sunset off Honduras

6.14.13 (4)

CPA 1

Three’s a Crew

Tuesday June 11, 2013

CPA 1

(Photo courtesy of Offshore CPA)

 

Thanks to Nate’s boss for letting him out a day early, and winds that would be on our side (albeit light) for the three to four days that fit into both our schedules, Serendipity was taking on an extra crew member for the 380 mile crossing from Grand Cayman to Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras.  With the departure date set, Matt and I spend yesterday touring what felt like the whole island by foot, looking for extra fabric to make a shade from the mast back as well.  We visited the same shop we bought the first set of fabric from, only to find out that the next day, someone came in to purchase whatever was left.  So then we went to six other fabric stores sprinkled across the island, only to find out no one else carried Sunbrella, and the one store that did, couldn’t sell it wholesale.  I guess the back shade will just have to wait.  While out on our hunt, we also filled up our both our backpacks to the brim, pretty sure that we’d never see things like granola bars or pop ever again.

Today we planned on leaving in the early evening, so I spent a good part of the morning in the galley, prepping meals so that little to no cooking would need to be done underway.  I made two loaves of bread, spaghetti with meat sauce, and a pepperoni pizza.  Cooking and clean up took a lot longer than I thought, I don’t even know why this surprises me anymore, it never changes, so Matt was left to do all the other pre-departure prep such as cleaning the boat and making sure everything is stored in a place that it will not get thrown about the boat.  Then we took a break to do something we’ve simultaneously been looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  Making sure Georgie knows how to swim.  We don’t have protective netting for kids/pets around our lifelines, and we make sure to keep her in the cockpit, harnessed in, whenever we’re underway, but that still doesn’t give a 100% guarantee that she may never fall off the boat at some time.  Our friends Kim and Scott have had their cat fall off multiple times at anchor, but their cat has always gotten back on by swimming around the boat to a little rope they leave down for her.  We have a small net that we tie to our stern while at anchor, just for this reason for Georgie.

We’ve never wanted to practice this cat overboard drill with her in most spots because of currents that might have swept her away, but now we were in a perfect area to try.  Both of us were excited to see her try out her swimming skills, but neither of us had the heart to toss her in.  A few days ago, Matt almost got her by giving a soft kick to her bum as she was leaning over the edge, but that little ninja was able to hold on by one paw and bring herself back up.  So today we mentally prepped ourselves to actually do it, and before thinking twice, Matt scooped her up and tossed her over the side.  The net was within eyesight of her, and we wiggled it around in hopes that she’d move toward it, but nope, this cat was making a beeline for the bow.  Matt jumped in behind her in case she needed assistance, but only having to guide her without even touching, she swam, quite speedily I may add, one full circle around the boat until she got to the stern again and used the ladder to pull herself up.  Go figure.  Wanting to make sure she knew what the net was for, Matt took her once more and lowered her to the waters edge right in front of the net, where it didn’t take her two seconds to use the net and climb back onto the boat.  It’s official.  We have a swimming cat.

6.11.13 (1)

 “Never feed it after midnight.”

 

With that taken care of, it was off to customs and immigration to meet Nate and check out of the country.  It was just as easy as checking in, and we were all off on one last grocery run before departing.  Jenn met us at the docks to say one last goodbye to Nate, and took some great shots of us as we were getting ready to depart.  She also wrote a nice post on her own blog about our departure here.  With all crew members on board the ‘Dip, we went about last minute projects like raising the dinghy on deck, and giving Nate a run down of where everything was located and how everything worked.  All of our latest purchases were stowed away, along with Nate’s backpack (and the Lo Carb Monster he bought for me, best gift ever!), and we were ready to go.

CPA 3

Nate, I think you may be confusing ‘pirate’ with ‘gangster’.

CPA 2

The crew of Serendipity is off to Honduras!

(Above two photos courtesy of Offshore CPA)

6.11.13 (2)

Before we knew it, literally, Nate and I were below when I happened to look out of the window, we were moving.  Coming out on to the deck we gave our new crew member a run down on the headsail that was being using at the moment, what the lines did, and the fact that he shouldn’t have to touch them unless he wanted to because we’d take care of all of that.  Then getting a lesson on how to read the chart plotter, we had a failure.  The autopilot stopped working once more, just as it had on our way to Cuba.  Ten minutes into our journey.  We could still see shore and just make out our mooring behind us.  As Matt went to work on it, with ever attempt resulting in nothing, it now became a question of ‘Continue on, possibly hand steering for the next three and a half days? Or turn back and try again tomorrow?’.  I don’t know why I was so determined to go that day, probably because I thought we’d lose our third crew member if we didn’t, but I was ready to push on.  Good thing, because 20 minutes later, everything was fixed and Serendipity was back to steering herself.  To celebrate the occasion I grabbed sundowners for us all to enjoy, dark & stormies for Nate and I, and a Red Stripe for Matt.  We had a great time chatting while watching the sun go down, and then after dinner, Nate and I played a game of Settlers of Catan on his touchpad.  Yes, this guy had Settlers of Catan with him.  Best. Crew member. Ever.

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‘Merica!

6.11.13 (4)

5.21.13

Semi-America

Tuesday May 21, 2013

 5.21.13

As far as passages go, our one from Cuba to Grand Cayman was a rather calm and uneventful one. Two nights out at sea, and besides doing a little motoring through light winds to steer clear of a few storms, there were no worries at all. The first 24 hours we were actually ‘buddy boating’ with Rode Trip, where we each had each other in our sights. Which seems pretty amazing considering that we often lose each other, even on 20 mile sails from cay to cay in the Bahamas. The second evening, after we had eaten all the leftovers packed in the fridge, we grilled up a couple of steaks, or whatever those pieces of meat were that we picked up at the market in Cuba, along with some diced potatoes and it’s potato like friend. I still have no idea what the heck these things are that we picked up, but they taste like a mix between sweet potatoes and regular ones, so I’ll have no problem slicing up the rest and cooking them up. Dinner was enjoyed with a cold Red Stripe for both of us (at the suggestion of non-drinking Matt, can you believe it?), and I’d have to say it was hands down the best passage meal we’ve had yet.

When dinner was finished, we turned to Georgie, intent on helping her get over the heat exhaustion she was experiencing in Cuba. I’m sure part of it had to do with the fact we were not at anchor and had no breeze rolling through, but poor Georgie spent a good portion of her days with her tongue hanging out, trying to get any reprive from the heat that she could. Our solution? After a suggestion from our friend Tasha who cruises with her own two cats, we were going to shave her. Matt held her in place as I ran the hair clippers over her and watched the nice downy fluff fall to the ground. I have to admit, it did make her lose a little visual appeal, with her lower half looking like a four year old got carried away with a pair of scissors, and bandage wrapped around her neck to help with her scratching, now rendering her the opposite of a butter face (you know…where everything looks good but her face). But I’m sure she’s much more comfortable, and that’s all that matters. Then the next morning, came the other Georgie issue.

We always check noonsite before heading into a new country to see if and what the restrictions are on pets. Most just state that the pet needs to have up to date shots, and in some countries, they can’t land. Which is fine because she stays on the boat the whole time anyway. What we read about Cayman, however, is that she needs to be micro-chipped and have blood work sent out no less than 30 day before entering. We didn’t have either of these. Our solution to that problem? Hide her. We weren’t sure if the officials would come on the boat or not, so we tried to stow away any evidence of there being a cat on board. Luckily her litter box is a giant Rubbermaid container with a hole cut in the top, so we just covered that hole with our tool bag. Her food, dishes, and toys were all stowed in the back of the aft cabin. And as for Georgie herself, we stuck her in her favorite little hiding spot under the combing and blocked the hole with a sport a seat. It was all for naught though, because this is the easiest country we’ve ever checked into. We pulled up to the dock to tie off, I was handed about four form to fill out, and even though one question was for us to list any pets on board (which I did…I don’t want my boat confiscated for falsifying), when I brought the forms back to customs and immigration they glanced at them, stamped the papers, stamped the passports, and we were good. What a load off our backs.

Because with that taken care of, we could get down to the important things and one of drawing factors that brought us here. Sitting right on the water and right in front of our (free!) mooring ball, was a Burger King. Did you hear me? BURGER KING!! Matt and I have now been without fast food for over two months, which about seven times as long in fast foodie years. Our mouths were watering at the thought of flame grilled Whoppers and bottomless fountain drinks. We quickly lowered the dinghy and roared over to the only ‘water access’ Burger King in the world. Stepping inside there was air conditioning, and we were able to pay for our food with a credit card, which means we never even had to make our way to a bank first to exchange money. The food was just as good as I remembered it, and being forced into haven eaten only fresh food for the past few months and dropping about five to ten pounds in the process, I was ready to snack on thick cut french fries until the cows came home.

While enjoying our little slice of heaven and looking out the windows that framed the West Bay, we watched as Brian and Stephanie made their way in, about two hours behind us. We let them get checked in and settled until we went to bug them about going to explore town together. They weren’t as keen on spending their entire time in Cayman at the Burger King, like we were. The four of us walked down West Bay St. which is mostly meant for the tourists of the cruise ships that come in for the day. It houses a Margaritaville, Hard Rock Cafe, and a million duty free shops. We strolled past all my old favorites, Victoria’s Secret, MAC, and Sephora. I had to laugh a little as I finally realized, that after 9 months of cruising, I no longer have the envy or need for any of these things. Ok, that’s not true. I do still want a few cute and lacy things in my drawer. Want to be my sponsor, VS?

We found a nice local little roti shop for Brian and Stephanie to get their eat on, and I jumped at the chance to try a new local beer.  I’m trying to tally up as many on our travels as I can.  Take that ‘Old Chicago World Beer Tour’, I’m making my own!  We were also able to taint Rode Trip’s eating habits a little bit on our walk back down West Bay St. where I would say we forced them into a Dairy Queen, but with the stifling heat outside, I think they went pretty willingly.  Sucking down a Bizzard faster than I probably ever have in my life, we then went to the local grocery store to see what kind of provisioning we could do.  Wow.  It was like stepping right back into America.  They had everything we could want or need, and there was a large variety of each item.  There may be a 25% mark-up from prices back home, but I think we were all willing to pay that little extra for some really good stocking.  Only doing a browse of the store on this night, we purchased a six pack of beer to enjoy on Serendipity for our own little happy hour.  We might be fine paying the 25% extra of prices in the grocery stores, but I think we’re all looking to stay away from the 50% mark-up in restaurants and bars.

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“I am not cute….”

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He’s literally a kid in a candy store.

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How every night should end.  Cocktail in hand, watching a pirate ship depart into the sunset.

 

5.12.13

An Extra Day Existing

Sunday May 12, 2013

 5.12.13

I won’t bore you with all the details of our three and a half day trip from Port Antonio Jamaica to Cienfugos Cuba, so I’ll just leave you with some of the highlights of the passage:

  • Ever since the Jumentos we’ve been having an issue with our engine where it does not always want to shut off from our pull switch in the cockpit and Matt has had to resort to turning it off in the actual engine several times.  He’s assured me that the pull switch should be working again, I just need to use a little extra muscle.  As soon as we’re out of the channel from Port Antonio and back in the Caribbean Sea he asks me to shut off the engine.  I’m pulling with all my strength, even bracing my feet against the cockpit wall, yet nothing is happening.  Even though Matt is busy trimming the sails I tell him that he needs to do it, I’m afraid that if I pull any harder, I’m going to break something.  He comes over, annoyed that I’m definitely not using all my strength, because it should be an easy job.  He pulls and pulls, … and rips out the plywood on which the switch is attached to!  The best part?  The engine is still running.

 

  • We’d been so behind to get ourselves out of there that the only thing I’d eaten all day was a small bowl of macaroni and cheese.  Although I had spent a good portion of the day preparing meals for the trip so that I wouldn’t have to cook underway, so the sink was full of dirty dishes.  Foolishly thinking the seas would be calm as soon as we left harbor I saved them for just after we had gotten underway.  There was no wind but the swells were still a good size, and so we bobbed back and forth at a measly three knots while I tried to concentrate on my dishes below deck.  We didn’t even make it two miles from shore before I got sick in the sink.

 

  • Obviously not having dinner now because of the seasickness, I got up for my midnight shift with now having absolutely nothing in my stomach.  After an hour and a half it got to the point that I was so weak I could barely lift my head to make checks every fifteen minutes.  Lesson learned.  Even when you feel like you’re going to throw up any food you might eat, still force yourself to eat it.  Because getting sick on a boat is much better than being too weak to operate on a boat.

 

  • Friday afternoon and into the evening was actually so calm that we were able to bring my laptop up on the cockpit to set on the table and watch movies.  For three and a half hours I was able to forget that I was on passage and sometimes even forget that I was on a boat.  This may rank as one of the best passage making days ever in my mind, even if we only covered about 90 miles our first 24 hours due to light winds.

 

  • On Saturday morning I was treated to my second dolphin show in a row during my morning shift.  Both days a group of 7 or 8 would come and swim by the cockpit, racing alongside of the boat and sometimes sticking their heads out of the water to check me out.  Both days, as soon as I ran below to grab my camera they would disappear.  I think they were in the witness protection program and didn’t want to be photographed.

 

  • In the very early hours of Sunday morning I realized there was a weather pattern on this trip that I could basically set my clock by.  During the afternoon and evening we’d have steady winds in the 10-15 knot range.  When I got up for my shift at midnight they would bump up to 15-17 knots.  But every morning at 2 am they would very suddenly fill in to 20-25 knots not peter back out until noon.  I’m serious, I could set my clock by it.

 

  • Before we left someone told us (definitely not Swifty) that Jason is bad luck.  Everything on his boat breaks.  Do not let him on your boat.  Everything on your boat will break.  So for an hour before we left on Thursday we had Jason out to visit one last time and also show him all the lavish space Serendipity had to offer compared to his Sundeer 56.  Don’t worry, these facts become important.  Just before my wind change was scheduled to come in on Sunday morning I was sitting in the cockpit facing the bow so I could keep an eye on the anemometer and the wind direction.  Which is when I noticed how rapidly it started changing.  We had been close hauled with the wind 40-60 degrees off our starboard side.  And then it suddenly moved to 90 degrees.  And then 110, 120, and kept going until it was at 180, putting us at a downwind run.  I had never seen such a sudden shift as that.  I called Matt up from his slumber to check it out and help adjust the sails.  It was then I looked at the charplotter and realized we were now pointed SW, directly back towards Jamaica.  It wasn’t the wind that had shifted, it was the boat.  The autopilot had turned off and I hadn’t realized it.  I put us back on course, hit the button, and watched us promptly turn back toward Jamaica.  We did this three more times before realizing the autopilot wasn’t working.  The same item that had failed on Jason’s boat while coming from Cuba to Jamaica.  From 2 am until 7 am we took turns had steering until Matt was able to use the daylight to put back together a fuse that had come loose and we were able to get it operating again.  This is also the night the winds decided they wanted to gust between 30-35 knots and let the seas build up to from 1-2 feet to 5-6 feet.  Lesson learned.  Don’t ever let Jason on our boat again.

 

  • Because of the ok winds during the day and the full winds at night, we started going with only the headsail, double reefed at night, so that we wouldn’t arrive to early on Sunday evening or in the middle of the night.  Had we been using the winds to our full advantage we could have easily gotten in by Sunday morning and shaved a day off our passage.  I could have had one more night hanging out by the pool and getting in contact with friends again before my imminent loss of internet coming up.  Even though this passage has been fairly calm, I never quite recovered from my sickness the first night and couldn’t do so much as touch a book or use my computer (except for the few hours of movies).  I couldn’t do anything.  I spent three days soley existing because that’s the only thing I could do.  To know now that I could have spent only two days existing and one more living?  Well, that’s enough to make me sit and ponder on it because that’s all I can do right now…

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The goat stew I prepared for the trip.

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Always a Crisis at Midnight

Sunday March 17, 2013

imageSetting the alarm this morning to go off 30 minutes before the sun rose, we poked our heads out of the companionway, and everything still appeared to be calm.  Our crossing through the Gulf Stream and into the Bahamas was still on.  Just like the day of our original departure from Michigan, I expected to be overly excited and have my stomach full of butterflies, but for some reason it felt like any other morning.  Raising the anchor we joined with the ICW once more and followed it the few miles south and around Peanut Island until we were faced with the inlet.  Nothing like the last one we experienced, this one was wide and deep and full of commercial traffic.  Although we had the sun rising right in our eyes making it hard to make out a few of the ships passing through (all pleasure vessels at the moment), there was no apprehension about continuing outside and into the Atlantic.  It didn’t hold the dark skies with foamy white caps that I was so used to from our previous journeys on her, but was flat and calm with a bright blue sky looming overhead.  Not knowing exactly how far the stream was to begin offshore, we knew it came the closest to Florida in this particular area, I turned our instruments to water temperature, hoping the sudden rise once we hit the stream would give me any kind of clue.

Since all of our fishing attempts before had failed us, and from what we heard, a lot of it had to do with being in cooler waters, we thought we’d try our luck once more since we were in an area much more likely to produce something on our line.  After all, with the dozens of fishing boats that had buzzed out of the inlet with us, there had to be fish around here somewhere.  Combing through our suitcase/tackle box, Matt browsed for the perfect lure and finally chose one that looked like a shrunken head.  Maybe the fish like that?  Feeding our reel a few hundred feet of spool and then attaching the lure to the end, we dropped the hook in the water.  Finished with that distraction for the moment, I checked back on the water temperature to see what it was doing.  The water had been hovering around 72 degrees right at the inlet, and was now climbing up to 75.  Did that mean we were in the stream, or just getting closer?  It was hard to tell since there was no change at all to the water that we could tell.  Setting the course a few degrees further south than we were aiming for, we sat back to enjoy this perfect morning.  This is the kind of cruising I had been waiting for for months.

Just when I had settled back into watching the coastline disappear behind us, the fishing line jumped to life with a loud buzz.  Matt and I looked at each other full of excitement and I exclaimed, “What do you need me to do?!, What do you need me to do?!”.  I didn’t know if I should get a bucket of water ready or a shot of vodka to stun the fish while trying to get it on board, but first I was just told to lower the engine speed.  Bringing us down to just over idle I looked over to Matt who had untied our reel from the pole it had been hugging (we lost our original rod holder during some high winds on Lake Huron), and he began to slowly reel in the line.  Still excited, I stopped to think for a moment.  Wait, hadn’t we just passed through a huge patch of seaweed?  Was that our big ‘catch’ of the day?  Matt had the same thoughts as well, and described how there was no kind fight on the end of the line.  Reeling it the rest of the way in, we both stuck our heads down by the combing of the stern to look under where the dinghy was hanging and into the open water behind us.  Sure enough, skipping across the top of the water was a little patch of seaweed, tricking us into thinking it was our dinner for the night.  Clearing it off we threw the line back in the water and hoped for better luck.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful.  The sun was bright and the breeze was low, so I finally had a chance to pull out one of my bikinis after six months of sitting at the bottom of my clothing bag, and work on my tan so I wouldn’t be ‘that pasty white person’ once we arrived in the Bahamas.  Conditions were calm enough that Georgie was even allowed to roam the deck, although I did join her a few times when small ripples would send us rocking back and forth a little bit.  Once more my Nook came out, and while Matt napped below, I kept a watch on deck while starting a new book.  Although the water temperature had risen to 79 degrees, later in the afternoon it began to drop just a little bit, and our coordinates showing that we were beginning to make progress south as opposed to just east, confirmed that we were on our way out of the Gulf Stream.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day for a crossing, and besides the fact that we motored across the entire thing instead of sailed since the 5-10 winds that were forecast (still don’t have the anemometer fixed yet) were on our nose the whole time, it was a perfect day on the water.  We watched the sun set while enjoying some leftover General Tso’s chicken, and shortly after I got myself ready for my 9:00 sleep shift.  With the early wake up and sun beating on me all day though, I could have gone to bed much earlier.

Getting woken up at midnight for my first watch, I rolled off the settee and slid on the harness that Matt had just taken off.  Getting my bearings, I found out that all the cruise ships and tankers that had been on our radar when I went to bed were now long gone, but we had new cruise ships headed in the same direction we were, a few miles off our starboard side.  Since we had been motoring for 16 hours straight now, Matt asked me to turn the engine off for just a moment while he checked a few things on it.  Obliging, I sat at the stern while our forward moment carried us along under autopilot.  In the few minutes he spent working down there, our forward motion could no longer carry us forward and the autopilot lost it course, furiously beeping at me until I turned it off.  Thinking that our belt was getting pretty worn down, he wanted to take a quick minute to change it.  Needing me to hold the step up so he could gain access to the engine, he worked around the scalding hot parts with an oven mitt, trying to get the belt replaced.   When he finished and confirmed that everything looked good I was told to turn the engine back on.  Bending down behind the wheel I turned the key and pushed the starter….but nothing happened.  Thinking that I was getting things mixed up because it was dark and I was tired, I tried again with the same results of nothing.

Having Matt come up and try as well, we realized it was more serious than not hitting the right buttons.  He left for the engine area again, and with a few grunts and curses he climbed into the aft cabin to find it was an issue with grounding for the spade connector to the starter, and within a few minutes he had it fixed and we were up and running again.  I put us back on course and sat back for a moment to relax while Matt cleaned up his tools below.  We weren’t even going for two minutes when I heard shouts of “Turn it off, turn it off!!”.  Shutting the engine down once more I scrambled down the companionway while he pulled back out the tools out of drawers and shelves. The new belt we had just put on snapped and yet another one needed to be put on immediately.   While Matt feverishly worked, now having to remove the bushing and put it back on, I was constantly trying to crane my neck for a view out of the port light to make sure those cruise ships were not coming any closer while we were sitting adrift out there.  What felt like forever but was probably one five minutes, everything was fixed, we were back on course and out of the way of cruise ships, and I just had to keep up hope that the engine would not die during my shift.

Today came with a lot fewer surprises, at least during the daylight hours.  When I woke up for my 6-9 watch, we were half way through the Northwest Providence Channel.  I had been thinking that we’d already be passing the Berry Islands by this point, but those headwinds were really slowing us down.  Still moving solely under motor power, we were averaging about 3.5 knots.  The winds were also picking up, which would be great sailing if they were closer to our beam, but being directly on our nose the only power they had was to keep us at a snails pace.  Once more without much to do for the afternoon we sat around reading and then took a bucket bath up on deck while trying out our new bug sprayer for the fresh water rinse.  We can each get ourselves fully clean with it’s one gallon capacity (1 @ each), so it looks like it was a good purchase.  While bathing (sans suits, cause…who’s around?) we passed by a cruise ship that was a few miles off our port side and didn’t seem to be moving.  Yet another cruise ship failure out on the open waters?  We just hoped the guests on deck weren’t bored enough to whip out a set of binoculars and aim them at us.  Or better yet, come out with their high zoom video cameras.  I can see it on CNN now.  “Cruisers stuck on a Carnival ship were treated to an interesting site while bobbing around in Bahamian waters.  A sailboat passing by was giving quite a show with two nude bathers on deck.  Are they hippies or have the faucets on their boat just stopped producing water?  We’ll have the story for you tonight at 11:00.”.

After our possible peep show, Matt was below deck working on getting the water maker attached (we took it apart for workers to get the engine and transmission in and out) when the engine stopped on us once more.  A little puzzled since everything for the most part appeared to be working fine, after a few minutes we realized that our fuel had run out.  Still having the 10 gallons in our jerrycans, Matt put about 8 in and left the remaining two in case we were to run out a second time.  The last thing we wanted was to come into Nassau Harbor under sail.  While he went below again to continue working I started charting our course more and found out that there were about 75 miles still left between us and Nassau.  Assuming we had put 8 gallons in, that would give us about 16 hours of motoring.  Moving at the speed we were, which was now down to only 3 knots, we weren’t even going to make it 50 miles on what we had.  Decisions needed to be made, and while we still had time to make them.  My two suggestions were that we check into the Berry Islands instead, now 13 miles away, or turn off the engine and tack our way across the channel until we had made up enough miles to put the engine back on.  While my vote was for the Berry Islands, it was only two hours until sunset and there was no way we’d be able to make it there without having to wait in the channel for the sun to come up anyway.  So after talking it over we let out the sails and turned on the motor, having to fall off the wind so far that we were barely able to make any progress on our course.  Nassau here we come….even slower.

What bothered me even more about having to fall so far off our course while we tacked across the channel, was now avoiding cruise ships and tankers without the ease of changing our course to whatever direction we needed to go to get out of their way.  And there were boats everywhere.  We couldn’t look at our AIS without seeing at least five or six within a few miles of us.  I was hoping that once it got dark out and we began to take our shift alone that the engine would go back on, but Matt assured that we’d be fine and we could tack out of the way of any oncoming traffic if we needed to.  Having switched shifts with him since he was feeling a little ill after spending a bumpy afternoon stuffed into the aft cabin, I was on first watch from nine to midnight.  We tacked just before Matt went to bed, and by the time we’d need to tack again after running into what would hopefully be the lower part of the Berry Islands, it would be time for him to wake up.  The first half of my shift was uneventful, although when the winds had died down and left us still moving forward at a pace of two knots, although now heading pretty much west when we wanted to be aiming south, part of me was hoping that the slow pace would continue so that it would actually take us until morning to reach the Berry Islands where we could then check in and fill up on diesel.  But as soon as I started wishing, the winds picked back up and now had me hurtling towards my target at close to six knots.

Our course over ground kept shifting all the time, so I had no clue if we were going to end up at the north or middle Berry Islands before it was time to tack again.  While I crossed over I kept an eye on the AIS, and watched the screen as blinking arrows passed miles away from our stern and bow, and then scanning the dark to make sure I could match up the navigation lights on the water that belonged to them.  There was one point about 45 minutes before my shift ended that I showed three arrows on the AIS headed at my beam, and I kept praying that they’d pass in front of me before we came up on one another.  Sitting there I contemplated on which direction I’d even be able to go to miss them.  The only thing I could think would be to tack and turn back in the direction I had just come from, but that would mean losing lots of miles and even more time.  I decided to wait a little longer until we got closer to each other.  Scanning the dark horizon I tried to place each vessel (two cruise ships and one tanker), so I could try to estimate if/when we’d run into each other.  Watching them all get closer and closer I started wringing my hands with what to do.  Should I wake Matt to tell him we need to tack?  Should I wait until they get a little bit closer?

Keeping a close eye on both the chart plotter and water, it looked like we might fall into an opening between the three.  The cruise ship closest to us looked like he was slightly veering off where he would pass by our stern, leaving a gap while we sat in an open space while the other two vessels passed by our bow.  Still not feeling comfortable leaving it up to chance, I hailed the cruise ship that looked like it was veering, just so he knew we were out there.  Although all these vessels are supposed to have someone constantly monitoring their radar, they don’t always follow these rules and sometimes little sailboats like us get missed.  Getting a hold of someone on the radio, I gave him our location and made him confirm that he had a visual on us.  He confirmed that he could see us passing in front of his bow, two miles out and to continue on course.  Feeling safe and satisfied, I called down to Matt to wake him up for his shift.  Crisis averted, and now I’d be able to get a few hours of shut eye.  When Matt came up a few minutes later I informed him of the situation, but he still wasn’t feeling comfortable with the other two vessels to pass in front of our bow.  He suggested we turn the motor on for a few hours so that dodging ships while in the dark wouldn’t be so hard.  Ummmm….didn’t I suggest that before?

Getting behind the wheel I turned on the engine while Matt went about furling in the headsail.  I hadn’t given a ton of thought to the cruised ship I had just hailed, but looking to my side once more, he didn’t look like he was going to go as far off our stern as I originally thought.  In fact, he looked like he was going to run us over.  Earlier I must have assumed that he was much further away because all of the cruise ships we had seen up to this point were lit up like a Christmas tree and impossible to miss the entire shape of the vessel.  This one however was much more stealthy, so it wasn’t until he was right on top us us that I could see how close he was.  You know those photos you see on DVD covers where it looks like you’re looking up at the bow of a naval ship and standing 10 feet away from it?  I could have taken that shot.  Without the zoom.  Punching up our RPMs we hightailed it out of there as fast as possible, angling ourselves so that we’d come up on it’s starboard side.  While I’m sure we weren’t in any real danger since we were able to clearly get out of it’s way by the time it passed, it was still very unnerving.  Still awing though, as we both stood there with mouths open at the sheer size of this vessel.  I’m really hoping we make landfall tomorrow afternoon, because I really don’t think I could take another crisis at midnight.

Bad Weather Always Comes Early

Tuesday November 13, 2012

Up with the sun this morning the plan was to make the 60 mile jump from Beaufort, NC to the Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach, NC.  The weather report was calling for 5-10 knot winds through most of the day until five in the evening when things would really pick up and start blowing 20-25 and increase waves to 5-7 feet.  Nothing that Serendipity can’t handle, maybe an uncomfortable ride, but we were planning on dropping anchor around that time so all was supposed to be well.  The winds were predicted to be so fair in fact that Rode Trip was going to wait an extra day and then follow us out since they didn’t want to use their motor.  Winding our way through all the channels we were back in the Atlantic around 7:30 am and there was a low swell with winds under 10.  The motor went on and although the mainsail was also raised it wasn’t doing much to help us out at the moment.  After a few more dolphin sightings we started our nap shifts and Matt was down below in the comfort of bed while I stayed above and tried to stay warm.  The temperatures had dropped from high’s in the 70’s to highs in the 50’s and although it’s not unexpected for us anymore it’s never any fun.

When it was my time for a nap I promptly passed out and besides stirring a little bit to tell Matt had also unfurled the genoa I was comatose for three hours.  I could tell the winds had raised and the waves must also have as well because it was becoming an obstacle to get my foulies back on as we rocked back and forth.  Making my way up on deck the winds were reading the 20-25 that was predicted, but four hours early.  Trying to stay on the high side of the boat I kept my spot as Matt asked to go back below as he never actually slept earlier.  Sitting out there by myself I got into the motion of the boat as it would rock from one side to the other.  Then the winds kept picking up and the rocking became even steeper to each side.  Watching the degree of heel, the boat speed and the wind speed keep picking up I began to get a little anxious.  Thinking I could slow us down and level us out a little I let out a bit of the headsail.  All this did was to bring our speed from 6.5 to 7.2.  The heeling didn’t stop either.  Since the winds were now a steady 30 knots I called down to Matt that his nap was up and he needed to come back on watch with me.

Noticing the conditions getting worse we rolled in part of the headsail.  This did slow us down a little but now it was the waves that had me worried instead of the wind and speed.  We were going in a direction that both wind and waves were on our beam and every fifth wave would throw us way on our side until the rail was in the water and then we’d right back out.  I don’t think my legs have had as much exercise as holding my body up against the high side, fortunately I started using steroids for muscle growth.  We were both tethered in at this point and it’s not likely that either of us would make our way out in the water but each time that fifth wave came I held my breath and prayed for land.  Double checking our course on the chartplotter Matt did notice that I had set the waypoint incorrectly, about 10 miles south of where we actually wanted to be.  Fixing that mistake and setting our new course this shaved an hour and a half off our expected arrival time and was not only nice because it would have taken us out of the waves but we were also getting close to sunset and any less time spent in the dark was fine by me.  While the wind blew over our side at a constant 35 now with gusts up to 40 I counted down the minutes until we’d be safe inside a jetty.  It eventually came with an interesting ride through the channel in the pitch black knowing those jetties were surrounding you but not being able to see them at all.  The anchor was dropped and we were safe for the night.  75 nautical miles traveled in 12 hours.  A new personal record for Serendipity.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning?

Hideaway passing us in the morning.

The waves never look big in photos.

9.25.12 (4)

Knot Getting Far

Tuesday September 25, 2012

(Corny title, I know, but this post is mostly about speed.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

When we left our creek in Middle River today there was only about 20 miles left to travel before we got to Annapolis and I thought we’d be there in 3-4 hours.  For the past few days our average had been about 6 knots and I had no reason to think today would be different.  This held true as we left the river and pointed East to get past an island before we could go South.  We cruised by it at over six and a half knots and now I was sure we could make Annapolis in three hours.  I could just make out the outline of Bay Bridge in the distance and once I got the ok I pointed South towards it.  We knew winds were coming from this direction but once we put ourselves on course we were basically in irons.  Thinking it would be best to motor through it we turned on the engine.  Our speed had dropped by three knots and it felt like we were making no progress.  Letting this go on for thirty minutes we thought back to how fast we were going under sail on our beam reach and figured by rolling out the genoa once more we could tack back and forth and a 45 degree angle to the wind and still make more progress than we were just motoring straight into the 25 knot winds.  The sail was unfurled, the course was changed, and the engine was shut off.  Even after we gathered back our momentum after the original course change our speed had gone from 3.5 under motor to 2.6 under sail.  Trying to gain more speed we’d fall off the wind more and more, but that left us on a mostly East to West course and were not making much movement in the right direction.

We fooled ourselves for way too long that this plan of sailing and tacking might actually work before we gave up and turned the engine on again.  Pointing ourselves South again we were fighting the wind and waves once more and speed had decreased to 1.5 knots.  What happened to the 3.5 we had earlier?  Could we not win?  Sometimes we’d do ok and start to get our speed up again and a huge wave would crash into our bow almost bringing us to a standstill, then we’d have to start all over again.  For the next few hours we plugged along, trying to get closer to shore to block some of the wind.  This seemed to help a lot and we settled into a speed between 4 and 5.  Just as we were getting to the bridge I settled into the channel which allowed me to not have to keep a constant eye out for crap and oyster traps that cluttered the bay.

 While I was enjoying this break from keeping my eyes peeled on the water I looked up at the bridge to watch the large barges about to come under.  There was one very large one passing through and it took a minute after he got under that he’d probably want to share the channel with me.  I added a few degrees to the autopilot to allow space.  Matt looked over at me as if to say ‘Get out of his way!’ which I told him that I already added five degrees.  That should be plenty.  Just as we were sitting there arguing if there would be enough room for the both of us we heard five blasts from the behemoth.   Yes, he was definitely telling me to get the F out of his way.  Quickly adding twenty more degrees I got out of the way just as he passed us by.  I’m sure he was shaking his head thinking ‘Pshh, women drivers’.

All was going well as we passed under the bridge, the entrance to the Severn River and Annapolis were in sight when all of a sudden the engine cut out.  I moved the RPMs down and threw it in neutral.  We’d had this happen before when large waves would shake around the fuel and a near empty tank would think it had run dry.  Then when we’d calm down it would sputter back to life.  This time it didn’t happen.  It shut itself completely off and I had harsh winds trying to push us back into the pillars of the bridge we had just crossed under.  It wasn’t a dire situation yet, but it was on it’s way there.  Just as I was about to fully panic we turned the engine once again and it came to life.  Only to die again a quarter mile further.  Emptying a five gallon jerrycan into the tank we hoped this would not become an issue again since the sun was setting and there were still a few miles to go upriver.  It must have done the trick though because we made it back to Weems Creek without any more engine issues.  There was the slight issue though of the anchor taking three times to hold in the silty mud below us.  I’m sure the cat we were anchoring next to felt very confident in our skills as we’d throw it in reverse to dig the anchor down, only to fly backward closer and closer to them.  I’m sure they had the same thought as the barge, ‘Pshh, women drivers’.

Okay, so I may have been in his way a little bit.

Anyone for a game of Battleship?

9.20.12 (2)

Salted

Friday September 21, 2012

Yesterday morning we exited New York Harbor and finally made our way into the Atlantic Ocean. We are officially salted. Before we could even get out of the bay the waves were rolling in and I could only imagine how it would be on open water. Once we got out though we just seemed to crest over the top of the waves without the up and down chop I assumed it would be.  While getting out to the point where there was still a little bit of land to our left but open water to our right I was debating if we were technically in the ocean now or still in the bay.  Before I could come to a decision we pointed into the wind (and were now slamming up and down in those waves), put the sail up, and turned our nose south.  Now there was no denying it, we were in the Atlantic Ocean.  It was an exciting milestone to have come so far from Lake Michigan to now call ourselves ocean sailors, even if it was only for five minutes now,  and to finally be changing our course to south but the view and the feel still felt the same as spending an afternoon in the Great Lakes.

Trying to get the sails trimmed just right there were a few other sailboats and a few tankers further off shore also going in a southerly direction.  Even though we were going over 5 knots everyone seemed to be flying by us.  A little more trimming here and there and we found a comfortable speed around 6.5 but we had long been passed by now.  It’s a little bit strange getting used to the currents carrying under you and increasing your speed without you feeling like you’re flying and need to hold on for dear life.  Back in Michigan if you were going over 6 knots it’s because the winds were over 25 and you were heeling over at a good 15-20 degree angle while trying to stay put.  Now going the same speed it was a nice comfortable ride with only 15 knots of wind behind you.  What a different world.

There wasn’t much to do for the afternoon.  Because we didn’t have completely calm seas, waves were 5-6 feet, I kept myself in the cockpit all day just staring off into the horizon.  I did take a few dramamine in the morning but did not want to touch the scopolamine again.  Time passed by fairly quick and before we knew it the sun was going down.  Getting ourselves prepped for our first overnight passage in a month I went to bed at 9:00 where we could just start making out the electric lights of Atlantic City off in the distance.  When I was woken up three hours later we had just passed it and I was told I missed a lot of interesting signs.  About an hour into my shift I could see a very bright light coming up behind me although it took a long time to catch up.  The AIS was showing that he was right on top of me but the lights off my port still looked far enough away not to cause real concern.  I checked the data and found out it was a tug and once it was next to me it was close enough that I could see the water churning up behind it.  I had been waiting for him to call me the whole time on 16 and tell me to get out of his way but either our courses were fine or he maneuvered around me because there was radio silence.

Getting up for my second shift just after 6 am Matt told me we were only 9 miles from our destination and to wake him when we got close.  Since our speed had gone way down over the night and we were just managing 3 knots.  Even though he had mentioned to me that we were going in a channel and would be anchoring in front of a Coast Guard Station my sleepy mind kept thinking that we had to go all the way around the cape and would be dropping anchor somewhere random in the Delaware Bay.  It took a good two hours and passing the channel by a few miles while calculating the best way around the shoals in the cape that my mind got to thinking ‘That bay doesn’t look like it offers any good spots to anchor.  Why do all those other sailboats keep going into that channel behind me?‘ when I finally remembered what I was told before.  Oh right, we were supposed to go in there too.  Waking Matt up and telling him my boo boo we lowered the sails and turned the boat around.  Following the heavy current into the channel we hooked a left at the fork in the road and found a nice spot in front of the Coast Guard station to drop anchor.  There were only three other boats in the anchorage at the time but just as our anchor was set we saw a fleet of five other sailboats make their way up the channel.  Holding our breath we let it out as they took a right at the fork and were glad they wouldn’t be dropping right next to us in the area that looked like it could hold five boats total.  Exhausted and each going on six hours of sleep or less we passed out after our first ocean passage.

Anchored at Sandy Hook.

First sunrise on the ocean.